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James Whitcomb Riley - The Song of Yesterday

I 
But yesterday 
I looked away 
O'er happy lands, where sunshine lay 
In golden blots, 
Inlaid with spots 
Of shade and wild forget-me-nots. 

My head was fair 
With flaxen hair, 
And fragrant breezes, faint and rare, 
And, warm with drouth 
From out the south, 
Blew all my curls across my mouth. 

And, cool and sweet, 
My naked feet 
Found dewy pathways through the wheat; 
And out again 
Where, down the lane, 
The dust was dimpled with the rain. 

II 
But yesterday! -- 
Adream, astray, 
From morning's red to evening's dray, 
O'er dales and hills 
Of daffodils 
And lorn sweet-fluting whippoorwills. 

I knew nor cares 
Nor tears nor prayers -- 
A mortal god, crowned unawares 
With sunset -- and 
A scepter-wand 
Of apple-blossoms in my hand! 

The dewy blue 
Of twilight grew 
To purple, with a star or two 
Whose lisping rays 
Failed in the blaze 
Of sudden fireflies through the haze. 

III 
But yesterday 
I heard the lay 
Of summer birds, when I, as they 
With breast and wing, 
All quivering 
With life and love, could only sing. 

My head was leant 
Where, with it, blent 
A maiden's, o'er her instrument; 
While all the night, 
From vale to height, 
Was filled with echoes of delight. 

And all our dreams 
Were lit with gleams 
Of that lost land of reedy streams, 
Along whose brim 
Forever swim 
Pan's lilies, laughing up at him. 

IV 
But yesterday! . . . 
O blooms of May, 
And summer roses -- where away? 
O stars above; 
And lips of love, 
And all the honeyed sweets thereof! -- 

O lad and lass, 
And orchard pass, 
And briered lane, and daisied grass! 
O gleam and gloom, 
And woodland bloom, 
And breezy breaths of all perfume! -- 

No more for me 
Or mine shall be 
Thy raptures -- save in memory, -- 
No more -- no more -- 
Till through the Door 
Of Glory gleam the days of yore. 

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Added: Apr 28 2005 | Viewed: 3283 times | Comments and analysis of The Song of Yesterday by James Whitcomb Riley Comments (1)

The Song of Yesterday - Comments and Information

Poet: James Whitcomb Riley
Poem: The Song of Yesterday

Comment 1 of 1, added on February 9th, 2009 at 12:02 PM.

This poem is such a moving tribute to the beauty of the natural world. I must say I wonder if Riley had any clue that much of this plethora of earthly sights, sounds and smells, would be on the brink of extinction some 150 years in the future. He lived during the insustrial revolution, so perhaps it was somewhat prophetic. I feel rather sure if he were living today he would be an enviornmentalist!

Linda Cooper from United States

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